Very quickly last year we learned the story of Lecretia Seales, a young Wellington lawyer trapped in a body that was facing a slow, painful death. Seales decided, with the support and love of her husband Matt Vickers, to challenge the law that denied her a right to die with dignity, to be able to make the choice – her choice; she took her dispute to the New Zealand High Court and in raising awareness of and support for her cause the country – and people around the world – got to know a little bit about Lecretia and Matt; we learned about their love story, meeting in 2003 in a bar in Wellington. We learned about their commitment to one another and their shared passion to fight for what can only seem a logical reform.
Lecretia died in June of 2015. She was 42. She had been read the judgment of her case but it was not made public until the day later. She had lost.
Lecretia’s Choice: A Story of Love, Death and the Law is her story as told by her husband Matt Vickers. It is their story, their love story, their struggle through fertility issues and treatments to Lecretia’s diagnosis and then the legal battle.
Vickers, in a calm, measured tone sets out the timeline – their first meeting and early courtship skips across the opening chapters and our hearts flutter alongside theirs. Then the minutiae of working lives. Vickers reminds us that he and Seales travelled often, indulged in food and culture – had a wonderful life together. They were young and in love and though their decision to have children was met with heartbreak over inabilities to conceive and then carry he stresses that they were lucky in their lives – they had so much. And as sad as it was to not start a family they had each other. They had success, as hard workers with good jobs. They had friends and extended family support. They had happiness. They had, like almost any couple, the ups and downs of life and love – but the light continued to shine.
And then we learn of Lecretia’s diagnosis – in 2011 she is told she has a brain tumour. There is an operation. There are falls and there is deterioration of quality of life – slowly, and then rather quickly. Lecretia, though, continues to work – while she can. Eventually she cannot. And then Matt’s role changes too – as he reduces his hours and then takes leave to become his wife’s carer.
A devastating story – and of course we know the end before we begin reading – but what would be an important book anyway is transformed into both the most wonderful tribute to his wife and a truly absorbing read by Vickers’ patience, commitment and tone, and by his skills as a writer.
We learn about Matt’s literary ambitions as a student and we learn so much about Lecretia in this book – her kindness, her grace, her focus, her hard-fought success.
Even-handed analysis of the legal process and the decision the couple did not want further shows Vickers’ diplomatic nature and though he voices his frustrations and his disappointments – and is sure to include details of small fights and other hiccups so as to never be accused of painting only with the rose-tint – the writing of the book, the actual writing, the thoughts, the choices, the colour, the evocative descriptions, is first subtly powerful and then poetically beautiful.
When you have a story worth telling almost any level of prose and effort at shaping will do. But here Vickers ensures the memory of his wife – as a person, as well as the name and face behind a cause – lives on through his exquisite telling of the memories of her actions and he has created a vivid summary of a heart-breaking love story complete with compelling argument for a draconian law to change. It’s a simply wonderful book.
I’ve tried in a few words here to say that – over and again – but I smiled so often reading this book, marveling at the method behind it, the man’s ability to put all of this – his life and hers – on the page for all of us to read. And to be doing it for utterly the right reasons. And I wanted to weep – for a person I never knew. She seemed like the greatest friend just from reading about her on the page. She will be remembered as a great friend to many and loving daughter and sister, as a great legal mind and advocate also. And through this summary of that Matt Vickers continues to be the very best husband, friend and co-campaigner. A quite brilliant writer also. Lecretia’s Choice was an almost un-put-downable book. Every home should have a copy, for a reminder, if nothing more, of what it is to have heart, humility and hope – for here on these pages we read about not just one but two shining examples.